Monday, July 24, 2006

Other Items

Widespread sectarian violence returned Sunday after two days of relative calm, with at least 57 people killed in bombings in Baghdad and Kirkuk, shootings all over the country and 11 bodies found in the Tigris River, bound and with gunshot wounds to the head or chest.
[. . .]
American officials have acknowledged in recent days that the violence here is worsening. Gen. John P. Abizaid of the Army, the top American commander for the Middle East, said in an interview on Friday that the killings and reprisals among Sunnis and Shiites have been creating more problems than the insurgency. He said that additional forces would probably be sent to the Iraqi capital.
Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a Shiite, has yet to make significant progress in his plans for bringing Sunnis and Shiites together.
On Sunday, Mr. Maliki arrived in London to meet with Tony Blair. He will visit Washington and President Bush on Tuesday.
At Al Kindi Hospital, where some of the wounded were taken after the blast in Baghdad on Sunday, families struggled to make sense of the carnage.
Aadil Kadhum Ugla, 28, a Shiite mechanic, said his life had been saved because he was sitting low on a curb behind a barrel when the bomb sent shrapnel flying. All he wanted, he said, lying in bed with bandages on his ribs and bloody scratches lining his face, was freedom from fear. "We can live on a piece of bread and a cup of tea without facing such filthy activities from other Iraqis," he said.

The above is from Damien Cave's "Hussein Is Hospitalized; 57 Are Killed in Bombings in Baghdad and Kirkuk" in this morning's New York Times. You know, this time on Sunday, we were doing the editorial for The Third Estate Sunday Review and looking at the wire reports and different news sources and they were all reporting "more than sixty" which would later be raised to 63 (by AFP) so it's interesting that a day later, Cave's going with "at least 57." Especially since Andy Mosher and Naseer Nouri, in this morning's Washington Post, are able to give the figure as 66. Does the Times knock off early on Sundays?

I also have to question the "relative calm" which has been popping up in many press outlets. They can't, by any means, call it peace. But should they be calling it "relative calm"? Should the baseline be whether or not over fifty people die in bombings one day or are kidnapped and killed at bus stops? Is that really how reporters should be judging the situations in Iraq?

"Oh, only seven or twelve people died today -- that we know about from official sources -- so it's only seven or twelve. Let's call it 'relative calm.'"

There's something about that usage that really bothers me. Cave's not the only one to use it. It goes beyond him (and beyond the Times). Already today, there have been two bombings in Baghdad and two in Mosul. Will the fatality rate not be "enough" to qualify as less than 'relative calm'? It's something to think about.

On the issue of al-Maliki's whirlwind visits (while his own country is in chaos), Mia notes Patrick Cockburn's "More Than 100 Iraqis Being Killed Each Day, Says UN; 3,149 Killed in June Alone" (CounterPunch):

The switch of American and British media attention to Lebanon and away from the rapidly deteriorating situation in Baghdad is much to the political benefit of Mr Bush and Mr Blair.
"Maliki's trip to Washington is all part of the US domestic agenda to put a good face on things for November," a European diplomat in Baghdad was quoted as saying.
Ever since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein a succession of Iraqi political leaders have been fêted in London and Washington where they claimed to have the insurgents on the run. Mr Maliki's meetings with Mr Blair today and Mr Bush tomorrow are likely to be lower key but will serve the same purpose before the US Congressional elections in November. US commanders are considering moving more of their troops - there are some 55,000 near the capital into Baghdad to halt sectarian violence.

A lot of things kicking Iraq off the radar these days. And there are many ways to cover the country, the war, and the peace movement. One issue not noted very often comes via Martha's highlight -- Jonathan Finer's "War Taking Toll on Marriage, Too: Iraqi Officials Say Divorces Have Doubled Since 2003 Invasion" (Washington Post) look at divorce in Iraq:

Marriages are governed by Iraq's 1959 personal status law. Long considered among the most progressive in the Middle East, it does not adhere solely to Islamic law, which favors men in nearly all matters. But a recent visit to the Kadhimiyah court showed that religious influence remains pervasive.
Rules governing divorce vary by sect. While Shiite women were asked about their "purity" and required to bring two witnesses, Sunni Muslims needed no witnesses and were spared the intimate questions.

[Note, as stated elsewhere in the article, 'purity' means whether or not the women are having their period -- if you're 'pure' then you aren't having your period at that time. And we're jumping a bit to the next section, so -- . . . .]
While men can bring divorce proceedings for any reason, women can divorce only under certain conditions, such as physical or sexual abuse or abandonment. Absent such mistreatment, a woman can divorce only if her husband consents, and in such cases she forfeits legal benefits such as compensation for the three-month post-divorce period in which remarrying is prohibited.

There are many stories to be told and covered. That's really not happening for the most part. But space will always be made for Michael Gordon to pretend to write about police recruitment while advocating more American troops be sent to Iraq. It's "strategy" not "advocacy" -- you figure that one out. The e-mail address for this site is